By: Erick Solms | President at Simplitfy
Whether a vicious malware or a targeted attack by a hacker, lackluster network security can end up costing your business more than just lost data. Between fines, penalties, and damage to your reputation, it’s vital that you keep your cyber security protocols up to standards.
This is especially true for small businesses, who are sometimes under the impression that security threats are low since they’re “small” targets. The reality is that 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses — yet only 14% of small businesses would rate their cyber security as highly effective. With these things in mind, it’s important to educate yourself on the current landscape of vulnerabilities and best practices.
Network security is an umbrella term that encompasses various efforts on behalf of an organization to help protect against both intentional and accidental damage to a network or its users, private data, and devices. With proper network security in place, a network will remain up-and-running safely and operating as intended for all of its users.
Of course, implementing an effective network security plan is always easier said than done. A good network security plan will prove extremely complex as there are many different ways that a network can be vulnerable. As such, network security always requires a multi-faceted approach, especially for small businesses.
There are many things that can result from failed network security. The loss of customer data is definitely one of the most well-known results of failed network security, and it’s also one of the most damaging.
The exposure of private customer data not only put a small business in a position of potentially owing serious fines, it also leads to mistrust amongst the public and a poor reputation for the business. After all, when customers entrust you with their data, they expect it to get stored in the securest environment possible.
This is a major contributor to 60% of small businesses who suffer a cyber security attack shutting down within 6 months.
Another way that a data breach can damage an organization is through the exposure of confidential research or trade secrets. Companies pour substantial amounts of money into conducting research to help them gain a competitive edge.
When exposed to competitors, development initiatives and other information causes these companies to lose ground and they could get overtaken by their competitors who can now use the business’ critical investment to their own advantage.
Other critical information that competitors can use to their advantage includes your sales strategy; your budget and financial projections; information about mergers and funding sources; and even upcoming acquisitions that you haven’t announced.
Aside from the potential of a class action lawsuit in the event that multiple customers’ data gets leaked, in the event of a network security fail, you may also suffer from severe penalties for breaching government and industry regulations.
For larger companies, a data breach could cost over $148 million, as Uber recently learned. For a smaller business, you could expect fees in the thousands to hundreds of thousands depending on the industry you’re in (i.e., medical or healthcare) and the amount of information exposed as a result of the breach.
Beyond these fees, which can vary greatly, there are also other costs of exposing information. One study, which explained that 40% of data breaches link to malicious attacks, also demonstrated that a business will pay about $130 per leaked record. This is in addition to the marketing costs of rebuilding your reputation and customer base.
In most cases, a network attack isn’t aiming to damage the network itself. Rather, most attackers are after information. So, they get it by spying on users and the communication that happens across the business’ servers. Because they do not aim to damage the network, most attacks go unnoticed for some time, especially when a business lacks proper monitoring.
However, an attacker won’t just steal data. In many cases, they can damage a user’s device to either prolong their own access to company servers or to prevent key users from accessing monitoring systems and other important tools that may lead to the hacker’s exposure.
Additionally, hackers can work to shut down the business’ operations by damaging systems and basically halting the operation of a business through a network-wide shutdown or freeze. In some cases, a hacker might even manipulate systems, like entry-point security, so that they can physically access the facilities. This leaves business property and employees themselves at a heightened risk.
As such, the right network security plan will keep data secure, but it will also aim to keep the users and devices secure, too. To accomplish this goal, small businesses need to follow the industry’s best practices and ensure that their approach to network security is always up-to-date and robust.
Active devices include software that work to prevent malicious programs from getting into or operating on your network. These active systems can also help to block suspicious emails from getting sent across company servers. Simpler examples include software designed to prevent network users from accessing suspicious websites.
Passive devices include software that work to detect and report unauthorized network usage. Such devices can also monitor user activity and report on users who are acting suspiciously so that your security team can investigate.
A great network security plan doesn’t just react quickly when there is an issue. It should also work to be proactive and preventative to help stop issues from ever occurring. Preventative devices can monitor networks, systems, and software your business uses in order to identify potential vulnerabilities and alert staff so they can address them.
One of the major causes of data breaches is human error. Users can accidentally cause a lot of issues for your business by using weak passwords, sending data to people they shouldn’t, sharing account information, sending data over insecure servers, or even doing something so simple as leaving their computer logged in when they step away for a moment.
Even with the most secure software and hardware on the market, your users can cause avoidable security holes without even knowing it. Your staff should learn what they are responsible for when it comes to upholding your network security. You should also ensure the security staff is always there to identify and address potential threats caused by your business’ employees.
Designing a network security plan that is effective for your small business must involve a big picture look at your company and all of the potential places where vulnerabilities could arise.
One of the major aspects that small businesses overlook is the potential of an “inside job.” It might sound unlikely, but disgruntled employees and recent ex-employees who are able to get into your business systems can easily cause major damage by exposing information or damaging systems.
This is why your network security needs to have a well-rounded approach. For instance, when an employee gets let go, you need to assign employees who are responsible for disabling their account. Of course, insider misuse can also occur at the hands of active employees who you have put your trust in.
Detecting insider misuse always proves extremely challenging, which is why you need to invest in both detective and preventative measures. For instance, you can minimize the potential damage a user can do by limiting their access to as little files and data as possible. Users should not have access to anything their job does not require them to access. This compartmentalization is essential to network security.
Cyber security is a serious topic, but one that requires a great amount of specialty research and knowledge. Your small business doesn’t have the resources or time to devote to learning about the industry, which is why you need Simplitfy.
We partner with small businesses to help them ensure their cyber security systems are at or above industry standards. With our help, you can protect your business’ crucial private data and keep your systems and customers safe from threats. Learn more here.